Friday, September 7, 2012


9/6/1924 - In Mooresville, Indiana at 8:30 in the evening, training to become Public Enemy #1, fortified with shots of whiskey, twenty-year-old John Dillinger, and his partner Ed Singleton (a thirty-one year-old web-fingered drunk that has umpired some of shortstop Dillinger's local baseball games), attempt to rob West End Grocery Store owner B. F. Morgan.  

                                        Young Dillinger

Unhappy with his job as an upholsterer and newlywed life, the young man allows himself to be influenced by distant-in-law Singleton and booze fueled fantasies about his hero, Jesse James, a combination that leads to the bad decision that will effect the rest of Dillinger's short life.

                                                  Dillinger and his father

A carnival of criminal ineptitude, in the robbery that takes place the men exchange clothes, thinking that will prevent their identification if anyone spots them while the crime is taking place, and then hide in a patch of bushes near a local church they know their victim will walk by.  When Morgan does appear, Dillinger springs forth and hits the grocer over the head with a metal bolt wrapped in a handkerchief planning to rob an incapacitated foe.  Not enough though, the blow is deadened by the bolt wrapping and Morgan wearing a straw hat (he will receive only minor cuts) and the grocer resists fiercely, wrestling in the dark with his assailant and causing Dillinger to discharge the Iver Johnson .32 pistol he is carrying.  The still of the night shattered by the gunshot, Mooresville becomes even noisier when Morgan instinctively gives the "Masonic Grand Hailing Sign of Distress," a set of noises accompanied hand and arm moments that causes porch lights to go on up and down the street

                                                         Graduation photo

Thinking his shot might have wounded or killed the grocer, Dillinger flees the commotion he has caused, but arriving at where he and Singleton have parked their getaway car, discovers that not only has his partner decided not to participate in the crime he had planned, he has stranded Dillinger by driving off in the escape vehicle, a Model T Ford.

                                Dillinger as part of the crew of the battleship, USS Utah

Not the cool customer he will one day become when pulling jobs, a panicked Dillinger ducks into the first place he comes upon where he thinks he can hide, a pool hall a few blocks away.  There he provides police with the only clue they will need to solve the crime by asking about the injury status of Morgan before anyone even knows Morgan has been assaulted; foolishness that is compounded by patrons of the establishment noting that the flustered young man babbling about the local grocer is attired in clothes that are torn and bloodstained!   

                         Dillinger under arrow, Singleton is in cap at the end of the bottom row

No Sherlocking required, Dillinger is arrested the next morning at his father's farm by Deputy Sheriff John M. Haysworth and Mooresville Marshal Greeson and the family fun begins.  Taking bad advice from his father when there is no hard evidence that he robbed the grocer, the future outlaw confesses to the crime, then at trial, waives his right to a lawyer and pleads quilty ... a decision that allows crime fighting Judge Joseph Warford Williams to use the youth as an example for others not to follow in his path by sentencing Dillinger to 10-20 years on a first offense consisting of conspiracy to commit a felony and assault with intent to rob.  Embittered by his sentence and the knowledge that his former friend Singleton receives a lesser punishment of a 2-14 years by hiring a lawyer, getting a change of venue that comes with a different judge, and not pleading guilty (he will serve only two years), Dillinger will use the nine years he is forced to serve behind bars (first at the Pendleton Reformatory and then the Indiana State Penitentiary at Michigan City) by studying how to become a competent professional bank robber, lessons he will excel at and that in 1934 make him the nation's first designated Public Enemy #1!

                                                                  Michigan City

No comments:

Post a Comment